ADDIS ABABA, Feb 2 — President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has held talks here with President Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan, which focused on relations between the two countries, and the
raging civil war in South Sudan, the world’s youngest country.

South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan five years ago, is engulfed in a bitter civil war which has killed tens of thousands, mainly civilians, and displaced hundreds of thousands others, pitting President Mayardit against his former deputy, Riek Machar, whom the former accuses of sparking the conflict through an attempted military coup a year ago.

Peace mediation by neighbouring countries have so far failed to reconcile the two sides, but President Mayardit said he was hopeful an agreement would be reached soon at ongoing talks. The African Union (AU) on Saturday gave the two sides an ultimatum to end the conflict, or risk both parties being sanctioned by the
continental body.

This was one of the resolutions adopted at the AU’s 24th Ordinary Session of the Heads of State and Government Summit which ended in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Saturday. President Mugabe was
elected AU chairman at the summit.

“Talks are still ongoing and we hope something good will come out of it. The one (Machar) who started fighting knows why he subjected the country to hardships. He wants to become president, instead of waiting for elections,” President Mayardit said.

But he said the situation in the country was not as grave as portrayed, particularly by the media. “We are normal in South Sudan. Of course you know the news that comes out is fabricated. When you read that you think if you go to Juba, you will find bodies at the airport littering the (airport) lounge, but it is not true,” he said.

President Mayardit said he also discussed bilateral relations between his country and Zimbabwe with President Mugabe, whom he described as the “Father of Africa”.

The two countries enjoy close relations, forged when South Sudan was still fighting for independence from Khartoum. “We discussed our bilateral relations. He (President Mugabe) is the father of Africa,” he said.